Los Angeles Tired of “For Sale” Signs

A city committee is looking to eliminate do-it-yourself car sales on city streets

So much for that do-it-yourself spirit.

Undeterred by a federal court ruling nine years ago that tossed out a Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting the placement of "for sale" signs in car windows, the City of Los Angeles is once again looking for ways to keep people from engaging in the practice.

"If people want to buy a used car, they should 'Go see Cal' -- not go to Los Feliz Boulevard," Councilman Tom LaBonge said Wednesday, an apparent reference to the Cal Worthington car dealership chain.

In response, the City Council's Public Works Committee asked city lawyers and law enforcement officials to work with transportation officials toward finding a legal way to restrict the do-it-yourself practice on city streets.

Trouble is that, back in 2000, a federal court ruled against the city in favor of free speech. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Judge A. Howard Matz wrote in the ruling: "The court cannot fathom how a sign in a parked car is more dangerous than the same sign in a moving car [...] As to the indisputably important ‘aesthetic’ concerns, defendants could minimize alleged harms with measures far short of outright prohibition."

Now, in 2009, as the economy tanks and phones are ringing off the hook at unemployment offices throughout California, more vehicle owners are looking to sell their cars, a situation that council members say has prompted a surge in complaints from residents and business owners in places like Harbor City, Venice Beach and the San Fernando Valley.

Car sellers are miffed. Dealerships typically offer far less than market value for used vehicles, which is what makes putting a "for sale" sign in the window more attractive to owners than to "Go see Cal."

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